Wednesday, 13 January 2016

When your angel returns from custody visits a devil

You know what they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. 2016 was meant to be MY year. I started off with such grand plans, of how I wasn't going to let anything get in my way, and then I hit my first roadblock; my first full day of the year with my child at home.

Miss K spent from Boxing Day to New Years Day with her dad in Melbourne. I spoke to her every single day and she was cheerful and happy and excited. I don't know where that girl ended up, I think she got left behind in Melbourne, because the little person that was returned to me at the end of her holiday was neither cheerful nor excited. She was rude, she was stubborn, and she was destructive. I have a name for this little person, Grumpus. You see this isn't the first time my darling daughter got left behind in Melbourne after an access visit with her dad, so I know Grumpus well.

Grumpus does things Miss K would never dream of doing, like telling my mum she refuses to speak to her when mum tells her off for being a brat, or complaining when I ask her to do a chore. Grumpus is quick to get frustrated or angry, and slept a lot her first few days here. Once the exhaustion wore off and she felt alert enough to raise hell, she started with her antics. It started with refusing to go to the toilet on her own, a skill Miss K mastered some time ago, then she decided she couldn't go anywhere in the house unless I followed exactly a metre behind her at all times. I don't know why she needed an audience to pour herself a drink, but then preschooler logic has never been my strong point. Grumpus decided that 3am was a perfectly acceptable time to start the day, regardless of anyone who felt otherwise, and one morning when I refused to get up at 3am to entertain her, I woke up at a more respectable hour to discover Grumpus had destroyed a 30cm block of Styrofoam, and scattered little balls of foam from one end of the house to the other while I was asleep. I looked like a yeti who was moulting that morning, because of course she decided my bedroom was the perfect place to discover what the inside of a Styrofoam block looks like (little hint, exactly like the outside, just bumpier.) so my bed, walls and floor wore the brunt of the foam, as did I. For the first ten minutes of my day I looked like I had a severe case of gigantic dandruff as I shook the balls from out of my hair. I have never wanted to spike my own coffee more than I did that day. My only salvation that day was that now that Miss K/Grumpus is a little bit older, I could make her clean up her gigantic mess as punishment, and I sat down for half an hour and watched her struggle to work a vacuum cleaner that is nearly as tall as her, barking orders every now and again when she missed a spot, or got distracted by vacuuming her own hair.

The final straw came the next day (yes, I managed to keep my head from exploding after waking up in my own foam cloud) when I tried to send Miss K to her room as punishment for fighting with her cousin. Grumpus appeared and defiantly told me that SHE would not be going to her room, because SHE was a big girl. In the interests of keeping things real around here, I will confess that I did not handle this like Mike Brady, where we all sit around and discuss our feelings like rational human beings while muzak plays in the background. I lost my temper so quickly I actually surprised mum, and made my opinion of my daughter and her attitude very well known. Well Grumpus/Miss K ended up running to her room in tears after I had finished, and to be honest, I haven't really seen much of Grumpus since. Any time she tries to show up, all it takes is my meanest glare (trust me, I have a scary face when I want) and things get done without complaint, and without a single hint of attitude.

I know that what I have been experiencing this fortnight is far from unusual when kids split time between two houses. I was actually expecting this behaviour, and possibly worse because the last time Miss K spent a week at her father's house she came home displaying signs of regression, as well as an increase in night terrors and bet wetting, so I was expecting something, I just wasn't sure what. From my time working for a family lawyer, I knew that this was actually a pretty typical reaction from kids after being shuttled from one house to another, from one routine to another, and from one set of rules and restrictions to another. One of the most common complaints I heard from our clients was that their ex always returned their children home exhausted and feral. But expecting it and coping with it are two entirely different things. Unfortunately for me, my preferred method of coping with it which was to hand Grumpus back to her father and tell him to return her when she wasn't such a pain in the rear didn't go over well, especially after he revealed that she had behaved the same way with him all week, (his exact words were "You're the primary parent, it's your problem.") so as usual it was up to me to remove Grumpus from my home. If I could now transfer my methods of extermination to other kinds of pests I could be a very rich woman.

So for now peace has returned to my house, and we're even beginning to see glimpses of a new and slightly more mature little girl running around. I'm certain this isn't the last time I see Grumpus, but with perseverance, I know I can send her running the next time, and the next time, and the next time, until she's at an age where the shift from one house to the other isn't such a shock to the system. In the meantime, for any of you out there who are so inclined, I would not say no to donations of bottles of whiskey to help me keep from ending up in a straight jacket the next time Miss K comes home from a visit to Melbourne.
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